Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Apple's TouchID on the iPhone 5S

Since the Apple iPhone 5S has come out, I've read a few articles on one new feature of the phone, the TouchID fingerprint recognition system.  This is not the first time that fingerprint systems have been used in either smartphones or in technology devices, but I think this is the first time to put it in a system of more mass consumer use.

I recall that several laptops over the years have included a fingerprint system.  My current laptop has one, tho I don't use it.  With smartphones, the Motorola Atrix 4G has it.  I used the phone for awhile, and it seemed to work ok, tho when a new version of Android was rolled out, it no longer worked.  That was part of the problem.  With the iPhone 5S, fingerprint recognition is actually built into iOS7, and is not an add-on service or like with the Atrix 4G or with various laptop.

But people will keep trying to added fingerprint systems to devices.  I even have a USB thumbdrive that has a fingerprint system in it.

Thing is, fingerprint recognition is tricky.  There are a lot of potential issues, especially as the finger can get dirty, which can affect the effectiveness of the scanner.

Why people want to use them is pretty clear.  When it comes to authentication, there are 3 factors that can be used:

  • "what you know" (passwords, other information)
  • "what you have" (hardware tokens)
  • "what you are" (biometrics: fingerprint, handprint, iris scan)

A system that uses more then one factor is considered more secure.  Thus, your basic login system which uses username & password is actually using "what you know" twice.  Whereas if you had a "what you have" such as a hardware token or a one-time code sent to your phone is considered more secure.

Biometrics is more tricky.  But its getting better.  I recall at a college I was at tried a handscan system for the cafeteria, but due to issues dropped it for an ID card.  I think the face scanner ideas are interesting.

Another factor that people are really considered about is the privacy issues.  People are concerned that Apple will be able to pull their fingerprints from their phones.  Something to look into further.

This is a work in progress, and I plan to return to this topic.


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